In recent years pilates, yogalates, trx training or anything involving the core has been the new fitness craze and it’s not all just about aesthetics. Core training done in the correct way can have a huge impact on sports performance, preventing injury and rehabilitating from injury.
What is the core?
A lot of people seem to think if I do a million crunches I’m going to have a really strong core and amazing looking abs. But in fact the core is made up of much more than just your rectus abdominus (6 pack muscle) and that excessive flexion from crunches can actually cause muscle imbalances and back pain.
The core is made up an inner and outer unit. The inner unit, our spinal stabilizing muscles are designed to be switched on at low loads all the time. A lot of the time when you have had an injury or pain these muscles become dysfunctional and don’t switch on and support the spine when they are supposed to. Instead other muscles will compensate and muscle imbalances will present, pain and uneven loading on joints will occur. The outer unit of muscles are our prime movers and are designed to switch on when the demand for greater force production or strength for an activity is required.
Core stability and strength is not only determined by the muscular strength and endurance but also by proper neuromuscular firing. If an injury has occurred generally the correct functioning or sequence of muscle firing is disrupted which can add to muscle imbalances, tightness and an increased risk of injury. In core training we aim to reestablish proper neuromuscular control.
Benefits of Core training:
Improved Posture: core training focuses on identifying poor postural alignment and the cause of this and correcting it. Poor posture can cause uneven loading on the joints and degeneration.
Improved movement patterns: if you have a stable base to move from the limbs will move more efficiently and there will be a decreased chance of uneven loading on one joint or another.
Decreased pain levels: research shows that individuals who had chronic lower back pain and completed a 12 week core strengthening program reported lower levels of pain at rest and completing activities of daily living.
Improved neuromuscular control: the cause of a number of injuries is generally because muscles are not firing in the correct sequence and other muscles end up over compensating. Specific core strengthening programs teach the body the correct firing sequence to avoid overcompensation.
Self management of injury and pain: learn how to cope with injury flare ups and fit core exercises to current exercise regime, work demands and progress program accordingly
Core training should be individual and condition specific:
For the best pain free results, core training should be catered to the individual. Aspects such as current posture, sporting demands, working environment and presence of injury are important to establish and have a program designed specific to your needs. Proper technique and relevant progressions will also be important for gaining results from your program.
Core training should be designed to support and make you stronger for any physical demands whether it being lifting heavy boxes around the house, training for a half marathon or swimming event, strength training or to be able to move more freely in activities of daily living.
When rehabilitating from an injury or just beginning core training always start with gentle activation exercises and gradually progress more into heavier strength work. Your core stabilizing muscles should be thought of as your underwear and your global prime mover muscles should be seen as your overcoat. Unless you’re having a more adventurous day, generally you don’t leave the house just in your overcoat. Think of your core training as complementary to your strength and cardiovascular training for the best results.
By Anna-Louise Moule
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Join our Core Class on Mondays 7-8pm at Crows Nest Community Centre or Fridays at 12pm at Beyond Exercise Studio for a small group approach to core training.
All new clients will need to undergo an Initial Assessment before entering the class.